Hampton Roads Real Estate and Community News

Dec. 15, 2018

2018: A Weird Year in Review

I don't know how to describe 2018, other than to say it was one of the strangest real estate years of my life. Reflecting on the year that was, I find myself looking back on a year of joy and of love, of love lost, frustration and disappointment, teamwork and comradery, and of pure bewilderment. Our numbers were down just a bit from 2017. Part of me isn't surprised at all by this, but the other part of me can't believe our business didn't grow. This was the first year we didn't grow in 4 years, and I thought we had the systems and people in place to ensure success. But things don't always work out the way you plan them. That was my biggest lesson from 2018 - that, and you can never take anything for granted. 

2018 got off to a slow start because I allowed myself and my staff to slack at the end of 2017. We spent an absurd amount of time on things like our office door decorating contest, instead of focusing on running the business. My wife was also 7 months pregnant, with our first child due in February. To say this was distracting me a little would be a colossal understatement. Prepping for our new addition was all I could think about, and I allowed myself to be pulled away from the business. Baby prep mode carried through January and early February until on February 9th, my baby girl, Elena was born. My life, and my business, would forever be changed. I had never been happier, and was prepared to be the best father I could. I was putting the pieces in place to keep the business running at a high level even while stepping away a bit and allowing other people to step in and take over for me. Then we ran into our first, of several, crazy transactions and life situations of the year.

Editor's Note: I originally wrote a very, very long post elaborating on each of these events. At a certain point, it got so long I realized this blog would better served if each were broken out into their own post with lessons learned from each. So look out for more on these in the future. But for now, let's take a quick look at the positives and negatives from the year.


-Had a baby! As previously mentioned, Elena was born on February 9th. She's super chunky and is the best.

-Hired Amanda. Amanda joined as our team buyer's agent, and got off to a rockin start. She's been a great addition to the team!

-Helped 36 people buy and sell homes. A little short of where we wanted to be, but along with helping close friends buy and sell their homes, we made new friends that I'm very proud to have worked with. 

-Referred 2 people to excellent agents in other areas. One aspect of my business I don't mention enough is that I can help you find an amazing agent anywhere in the country. With my help, we can make sure your buying or selling experience, regardless of location, is absolutely top notch. 


-VA Appraisal came in $18,000 low on a purchase. This was absolutely crazy and flat out killed the deal. The appraiser wouldn't work on the value with us at all. VA appraisers, by the way, are the worst. 

-Seller wouldn't accept the deal I told him he'd get when we listed his townhouse. He apparently didn't understand what I meant about seller providing closing cost assistance. It was factored into the numbers we looked at that he said he'd accept. By the time he came around, the buyer found another place and moved on. Values in neighborhood have since plummeted

-Amanda's boyfriend unexpectedly passed away. This was an absolute tragedy that I'll probably never expand on. It came out of nowhere and as a team we never recovered. 

-Seller of a home died 5 days before scheduled closing. I had an elderly client selling her house to pay for nursing care. She wasn't well to begin with, but fell ill one day and died several days later. By the time the house made it through probate the heirs decided to list the house with another agent for 22K more than I had it listed for. The logic behind that is a mystery I may never solve.

-Lost a deal due to home sale contingency. We had a client write an offer contingent on the sale of his home. The seller received a second, non-contingent, better offer a couple weeks later and took it. Our client lost the house. This is the first time that's ever happened to me. Subsequently, he fired me from listing his house. The strange part was this was several weeks later and felt he was being lied to, and owed money. It was absolutely insane. First time I've ever been straight up fired. 

-USAA (who is terrible) deal took 90 days to eventually get denied. We had a listing in Denbigh where the day before closing we found out USAA had completely messed up the loan and had to start over again. 60 days after that, we find out that they couldn't use most of the buyer's income because of how it shows on his paystub and they denied the loan. We wasted an absurd amount of time. Fortunately, we sold the house again a few weeks later, but after a 5K price reduction. 

-Title problem with wife of old owner who got divorced and didn't sign deed delayed closing over a month. An investor client of ours bought a foreclosure, and at that time a title error was missed. It was caught on the sale though, and we had to track down the former owner's (the one who got foreclosed on) ex-wife and get her to sign the deed in Texas. We were unbelievably fortunate to track her down and it was extremely cool of her to help out. She could have just said no. If she had, our investor would now own a rental property for the rest of his life.  


I'm sure I'm missing something, but I think that's enough for one year. I know I had a townhouse in Hampton I had to sell twice, but it was during such a busy time of the year, the specifics are a blur. It's now the end of 2018 and reflection, for me at least, always brings motivation. I'm excited for 2019, where my business is, and my personal life. I have an amazing family and friends, and am surrounded by great people every day. I know I'll be making changes in the year to come, both within my company and various aspects of my life that will enable my personal and professional growth. So cheers to 2019. It's going to be a good one. 


Posted in Other
Dec. 2, 2018

Let's Talk Short Sales!

Raise your hand if you know what a short sale is. Hand still down? That's ok, there really isn't a reason you should be familiar with them unless you've tried to buy or sell a home as a short sale. About 95% of people I talk to don't know what a short sale is, or are at least completely unfamiliar with the process. Probably a third of those people tell me they know how they work, but they don't. And that's cool. Let's talk about what a short sale is, and what the buying and selling process is really like. Spoiler: It sucks.

We'll start on the buying side. So you've seen a home online that looks like a great deal, you call your agent and find out it's a short sale. Youi ask, "What does that mean?" A short sale is when someone is selling their home and netting less than what they owe on their mortgage. The problem here is that, unless the seller brings the balance of the mortgage to closing, the bank will need to approve the sale of the home and hopefully clear the remaining debt for the seller in order to allow the transfer of the property. You cannot sell a home without clearing all liens against the property.

Knowing that it's a short sale, you go see the property, and you love it. You want to write an offer. It's time to get your expectations in line, before you go rushing back to the office with your agent. When you submit an offer to a normal seller, you should have a response within a day or so. The same is true for short sales. The home owners will usually sign off quickly on an offer, however, now that contract needs to go up to the bank for approval. Here's where things stall out on the buyer side, big time. This process can take 90 days to 9 months! I tell my clients, if they're not ready to wait 6 months for a response from the bank, then it's not worth the bother. If the bank approves the sale, they'll want you to close 30 days later. So what do we do, as buyers, while we wait for the bank? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We just wait. As the buyer's agent, there's nothing I can do to get the bank to go faster. There's no one I can talk to. Going to a local branch won't help. The bank does not care about your timeline. They'll process this short sale in order they received it, along with thousands of others. We have to rely on the listing agent, the sellers, and in most cases their attorney, to get the bank the information they request in a timely manner. There will be gaps of weeks and months where the bank does absolutely nothing to process the sale. Unless I call you to tell you I have an update, I don't have an update. 

Because of the uncertainty of bank approval, you have to be very flexible with your living situation. You either need to be on a month to month rental agreement, in a situation where you can move out at any time (like living with parents), or be able to cover two payments if your short sale gets approved and you have to close while you wait for your rental agreement to run out. I never recommend short sales to anyone who has to hit a specific closing date. Banks will not accept a home sale contingency with a short sale offer either, so selling your current house, can't be a requirement of closing on your short sale purchase. Short sales are also, often sold "as is". 

So you submitted a full price offer on the short sale, so there's no reason the bank shouldn't accept that, right? Wrong. The list price, in most short sales, is set by the listing agent, not the bank. So the bank could get your offer, spend 6 months processing it, only to counter at a higher price. You'd think the list price would be set in advance by the bank, but the banks are run by the same morons who caused the housing crash in the first place, so it's not. There's no guarantee your short sale offer will be approved. Their counter could even come in well above list price. If that happens, you can negotiate with the bank, or back out of the deal. That's the gist of the process for a buy. It's a lot of waiting and uncertainty. 

Now that we have an idea of what it's like for the buyer, let's talk about selling your home as a short sale. First step is contacting your bank, who usually has a short sale department, to confirm that your loan type is eligible for a short sale. Some loan types can't be sold short no matter what. In this case, if you have to move, you'll either own a rental property or have to decide if you're willing to walk away from it and be foreclosed on. I recommend the former. From there, your agent will want to get the home on the market and begin advertising the property. This is where that great price comes in. I'll often list my short sales 10-15% below market value with a goal of getting an offer fast, and starting the process with the bank as soon as possible. This lower price is often necessary to get a quick offer since most buyers would prefer to avoid short sales. Once we have a ratified offer on the house we'll send that up to the bank and begin what will be for you, a fairly miserable process. At this point, I enlist the services of an experienced short sale attorney to work on your behalf with the bank to keep things moving.

Along with the buyers, you'll also be playing the waiting game for weeks or months at a time. The difference being that when the bank does finally do something, they'll make requests of you and give you very little time to provide the information they want. Failure to meet their deadline could cause your short sale to be completely rejected. During this process they're going to dig into every aspect of your finances. They'll want bank statements from all your accounts, a full rundown of your debts, your monthly expenses, and your income. It's very intrusive, which is the biggest complaint that I hear, but you're asking them to forgive thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars in debt. From their perspective they need 100% assurance that you cannot repay the loan they've given you. I've found that the bank will request something like 2 months of bank statements, then fail to process them for two months, and end up requesting bank statements again. It's infuriating. Be prepared. They'll also send out an appraiser to determine the value of the home. This plays a big factor in whether or not they'll accept the offer you've received. 

With most short sales, the goal is to be completely forgiven your remaining debt, but sometimes that doesn't happen. The bank may come back and ask you to take on the balance or a portion of the balance on a separate short term loan. Your agent and attorney can help negotiate with the bank on this. If you can't come to agreeable terms with the bank, you do not need to sell your house. If the bank counters the first offer your receive, and the buyers back out, you do have the option of putting the house back on the market with a "bank approved price". The second time through is often much faster. Prospective buyers will just have to understand that the price is the price, and accepting anything below the bank approved price will most likely lead to another rejected sale.

Now that you have a basic understanding of short sales, I hope you'll have a better idea if buying or selling as a short sale is a good fit for you. Just remember, they often take a long time, with a lot of uncertainty. Be prepared to be frustrated, and to never have a full understanding of what the bank is doing (because they often know what they're doing either!). As always, patience is a virtue. If all works out, short sales are a great opportunity to buy a house below market value or to get out from under a property you no longer can afford, Any other questions please contact me directly, or leave them on the comments below, and I'd be happy to help answer them. 



Nov. 18, 2018

I have a Blog - Listen to Me! An Introduction

After 8+ years in the business, I've decided it's fianally time to start journaling my adventures in real estate.  I've been thinking about this for years. In fact, I distinctly remember telling a coworker back in my Rose & Womble days that I had a goal of starting a blog and posting to it weekly. Well I've been at Keller William's for three years now, so I obviously failed at that one. It's hard to make something like blogging a priority. There really isn't a direct return on it. Most of our actions are for one of two purposes; to serve our current clients; and to help attract new ones. That's pretty much the job in a nutshell - go get clients, then provide them with excellent service. If you can do those two things in this business, you'll do well. If you don't, you'll end up like 85% of people who get their license...finding a real job. 

But the world really doesn't need another real estate blog. At least not a typical one, where we spend all our time reviewing the real estate process step by step, acting like that information isn't available on a thousand other sites. While I'm sure much of the process will eventually come up, the goal is to have it happen organically. If I ever post an article called "Step 1 of the Real Estate Process", I invite you to whack me over the head with my laptop. My vision for this blog is to tell you the stories you need to hear in order to understand what buying or selling a home, and living in Hampton Roads is really like. What I want more than anything is to tell you the truth, let you know what works and what doesn't, set your expectations straight, and for the lack of a better term, keep it real with you. 

The problem with real estate transactions is that people are involved. This means that the straight line flow charts, and "norms" can be thrown out the window at any moment. For every deal that goes as planned, the next has a twist that's often completely unpredictable. Because people are unpredictable Navigating those unknowns is what often makes this job so interesting, frustrating, exhausting, and rewarding. We usually figure them out. Every now and then we don't. I think there are lessons to be learned from both. 

As this blog progresses, I plan to keep it in my voice, which means it's definitely going to get a little PG-13 at times. I doubt there are many little kids out there reading real estate blogs, so I think we'll be ok there. And I'll try not to make these things too long. No one has time to read a ten thousand word post on negotiating home inspection repairs. This may end up being the longest I post write! With that in mind, let's wrap up this introduction. I look forward to sharing with you all the crazy shit that happens in my career. Check back in weekly(ish) and let me know what you think. I strongly encourage feedback, and even a little discourse. I love a good argument - I mean constructive debate.

Oh, and by the way, I'm never too busy to help you or anyone you know with your real estate needs (We have to say that at the end of everything. It's on page 1 of the successful real estate agent handbook) But seriously, send referrals, I have a baby to pay for





Posted in Other
Feb. 17, 2017

Buyers Agent Wanted

The David Tortolini Realty Group is currently seeking a full time licensed real estate agent to join the team! This person will be responsible for working strictly with buyers looking to purchase homes in Hampton Roads.  This person does not have to be currently licensed, but must be willing to start the licensing process immediately.

-          Full time agent

-          Computer literate/Able to learn new programs quickly

-          Excellent communication skills: Comfortable on the phone, and must be able to write professional emails and text messages

-          Have an outgoing personality

-          Must live on the Peninsula and preferably will have lived here for at least 5 years

-          Must have a strong work ethic and be able to handle very high stress situations

-          Must be available nights and weekends

-         Must be comfortable holding open houses


Call David at 757-912-4440 or email at TortoliniHomes@gmail.com for more information


Posted in Job Opportunities